Welcome (to Hell) to another installment of my monthly black metal column, Within The Abyss. Each month I review a selection of black metal albums released from all over the globe. Expect a variety of styles including black/thrash, black/death, atmospheric, melodic, industrial, medieval/pagan, raw (true) or whatever blackened form comes this way.
Caedes Cruenta – Of Ritual Necrophagia And Mysterious Ghoul Cults (Helter Skelter/Regain)
Caedes Cruenta return with a full slab containing new and reworked material aptly titled Of Ritual Necrophagia And Mysterious Ghoul Cults. With their best cloven hoof forward production-wise, the group turn their horns in the direction of horror literature and films themes in the creation of their first long play in six years. Theatrical keys and chanting interludes provoke the occult sensory. Listen to the title track’s opening intro and “The Mystical Ritual of the Dark Priests” for an example.
The cover art shows bodies being excavated and eaten by ghouls, a topic ripe for death metal, but stylistically — albeit the addition of occasional horse growls — Caedes Cruenta stick to the formula of traditional Hellenic black metal including signatures such as pounding snare drum rhythms and palm-muted riffs. Although derivative of Varathron, Necromantia and early Rotting Christ, the album just works. It’s hard to deny the catchiness of their riffs, ghostly keys and macabre madness.
Evil – Possessed By Evil (Nuclear War Now!)
Evil may have formed in 2011, but their sound is a throwback to the early days of black/thrash metal. The Japanese band’s bullet belt and leather attack brings to mind early efforts by Teutonic thrashers Sodom and Kreator with a generous helping of Show No Mercy Slayer. Following their 2017 debut Rites of Evil and other short form recordings, the band return to Nuclear War Now! Productions with Possessed By Evil.
Lead guitar is abundant throughout the album and there is a combination of classic heavy metal, black metal, thrash/speed and even hints of punk. Vocals have an old school rasp with occasional screams. Screams are a negative point, comparable to Tom Araya after he lost his voice. The drums really keep a furious pace, sometimes blasting. Riffs are catchy with an abundance of speed picking. Evil doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but Possessed By Evil is one hell of a banger!
Forhist – Forhist (Debemur Morti)
Forhist is a one-man project by Vindsval, who is better known as the guitarist of Blut Aus Nord. There isn’t a lot of information about Forhist — apparently this is his first album. The project prefers to remain shrouded in mystery. Besides the album title, the songs are titled in Roman numerals, not giving any hint to lyrical themes. The vocals, nestled low in the mix, are just as mysterious.
Musically speaking, Vindsval walks deeply into northern, primordial forests. Swirling, distorted guitars and gothic keys mesh to help realize this atmosphere. Slow droning moments and nature samples mesmerize the senses; while distorted guitars and fiercely pounding drum stir aggression. The low-lying vocals have a dualistic nature of desolate harsh tones and clean wonderment. Forhist does not represent the unorthodox output of Blut Aus Nord. It has a nostalgic value, capturing the spirit of early Norwegian atmospheric black metal.
Gravesend – Methods Of Human Disposal (20 Buck Spin)
Gravesend’s debut album Methods Of Human Disposal has one of the most unique sounds to grace this column. The New York-based band seamlessly meshes black and death metal with grindcore. This combination is the perfect aural representation of urban decay, opening a crusty mind’s eye to inner-city blights.
In true grindcore fashion, Methods Of Human Disposal is a short album — 15 songs clocking at only twenty-seven minutes. They find a balance between rumbling groove and breakneck speed. There are also moments of horror-film ambiance, which can be heard on the opening intro “Fear City,” which could have graced a ‘70s Italian zombie film. Check out the bass on “Ashen Pile of the Incinerated” for a good example of the nuclear fallout bass tones. Tracks such as “Needle Park” and “Absolute Filth” combine grinding groove with shrieking, bestial black metal. General Surgery and Darkthrone are a disparate duo for comparison, but Gravesend make these styles mesh so well together.
Pestis Cultus – Pestis Cultus (Signal Rex)
Formerly known as Snorri, Perth, Australia-based group Pestis Cultus present their debut, self-titled full-length album. Pestis Cultus is raw, evil black metal without the use of keyboard-generated atmosphere or melodic inflection. The album is short: nine tracks clocking in at a half-hour—and to the point.
While the core of Pestis Cultus revolves around guitar, bass, drums and vocals, the group make use of electronics to add a sense of cinematic horror to the intro and outro. Vocals echoing in a goblin sense from speaker to speaker is one of the standout traits of the album. Second wave Norwegian black metal is referenced. Nineties output by Gorgoroth (“Black Mass”) and Mayhem (“Cursed”) come to mind. Speed is a factor, but down-trodden passages on tracks such as “Into The Endless Darkness” suck the listener into infinite black holes. Tempo changes are an effective aspect of Pestis Cultus to properly convey their grim, barbarous compositions.
StarGazer – Psychic Secretions (Nuclear War Now!)
Australia’s StarGazer formed more than a quarter-century ago. They’ve released several short recordings. However, their latest — Psychic Secretions —is only their fourth full-length album. This short output is probably due to the meticulous nature of each recording. With Psychic Secretions, they continue down a progressive path, their avant-garde aims once again accomplished, without forsaking their established sound.
Bass is a prominent trait of StarGazer’s sound. The Great Righteous Destroyer’s fretless bass is at the top of the mix. His technical prowess is without question, wonderfully fitting mellow tones with The Serpent Inquisitor’s guitars in a deft display of finger boarding brilliance. This is the kind of precision one needs to play their avant-garde mish mash of black, death and prog styles. Album intro “Simulacrum” and closer “Pilgrimage” are laid back, progressive numbers, while the rest of the album is more aggressive and bestial with a mix of death and black voices.
Wampyric Rites – The Eternal Melancholy Of The Wampyre (Inferna Profundus)
Ecuadorian black metal entity Wampyric Rites are part of the Pure Raw Underground Black Metal Plague. Fellow record label member Funeral Fullmoon are also part of this circle. Judging recordings by both, the circle is dedicated to black metal’s true, raw aesthetic. The Eternal Melancholy Of The Wampyre, the group’s debut full-length, contains an enticing cover and song titles not betrayed by their compositions. Their vamperic themes bring to mind Black Funeral.
The foggy production and dungeon synth of instrumental opener “Ancient Specters of the Forlorn Forest” perfectly expresses the haunting title. The riffs that follow the organ are some of the best on the album. While much of the album is straightforward and simple, the title track is more complex, starting with chilling finger tapping. The Eternal Melancholy Of The Wampyre relives screams embedded in crumbling stone walls of dust-filled dungeons.